Actors: Ye Liu, Hanyu Zhang, Bo Huang
Director: Guan Hu
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen, Color, NTSC
Language: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Run Time: 108 minutes
The style director Guan Hu (Cow, Design of Death) uses in The Chef, The Actor, and The Scoundrel reminded me of Baz Luhrman’s early films, utilizing the over-exaggerated style of Peking opera and silent Chinese cinema for slapstick humor and visual hyperactivity. This appears to be an over-indulgence of style, but as the film continues the plot reveals reasons for these choices. I found myself going from irritation at the film’s over-acting and forced comedy to a complete shift in my opinion and appreciation of Hu’s choices.
This surprising shift in expectations is a major part of the film, as nearly every fifteen minutes provides some sort of plot twist. There are flashbacks which constantly reveal that there is more going on than originally shown. In effect, this is a simple story which is layered in a complex manner. It takes place nearly entirely at one location over the course of a few days, apparently borrowing its storyline from some true events from World War II.
The opening of the film gives us the historical background necessary, though it is done in such a way that suggests we may be about to watch a comic-book or science-fiction film rather than a story based on true events. During World War II there was a cholera epidemic in
and the Japanese were rumored to be experimenting with a super-strain of
cholera to be used for biological warfare against the Chinese. When a Japanese
general with information on a possible antidote is traveling through the city,
a group of unlikely heroes stage a delicate heist to obtain the life-saving
There is a lot going on in this film, and not all of it works, but I have to give Hu credit for creativity. There may be a few too many twists and some painful-to-watch intentionally bad over-acting, but The Chef, The Actor, and The Scoundrel works far better than I ever would have imagined a historical dark slapstick comedy could. The Blu-ray release includes a making-of featurette, as well as a blooper reel and international trailer.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10